Review: Requardt and Rosenberg’s DeadClub, The Place

Calling all dance aficionados and lovers of the weird and wonderful, you may be eligible for membership to the ever exclusive DeadClub.

Being performed at The Place, you would be forgiven for thinking that Requardt & Rosenberg’s DeadClubTM, is a dance show. However, you would be wrong. Co-produced by The Place and Fuel; and co-directed by Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg, DeadClub is so much more.

There is dancing, of course: there’s an abundance of armography and some very funky footwork but to call DeadClub a dance show would be extremely reductive. It is more of an interactive audience experience, complete with singing, dancing and script work. But it isn’t a musical. No, DeadClub seems to belong to a genre all its own and to even attempt to categorise it would be fruitless.

DeadClub is Requardt and Rosenberg’s fourth co-creation and focuses on “how to find meaning in the overwhelming chaos that knocks on our doors unannounced – an upbeat interest in our fears of death and meaninglessness”. An aim that they wholeheartedly achieve. The choreography, created in collaboration with the performers, perfectly captures the chaos of movement and the stillness in chaos: there’s nothing overly fancy in it, no bells and whistles or Dirty Dancing lifts, but it is stunning in its faultless simplicity.

As for an upbeat portrayal of dismalness, they’re right on the money again. DeadClub is a very humorous show, despite the clearly morbid heart of it – it is one of the very few experiences when you can laugh during someone’s eulogy and feel entirely comfortable in doing so. Especially because everyone else is laughing too. DeadClub does an amazing job of involving its whole audience through a sort of spotlight roulette; it is not a show that you watch passively.

I’d be lying if I said there was a clear storyline – a transparent narrative – but I’d also be lying if I said that that didn’t feel completely and utterly intentional. You will never grasp exactly what’s happening in front of your face but therein lies the fun of it. And I was very much on board for the majority of the show. However, in the final twenty-five minutes the piece loses focus slightly. The displacement, tension, and fluidity between the humorous and the serious that the company had done so well in building is forsaken in favour of loud noises, repetitive motifs, harsh lighting and abstract imagery that doesn’t add anything to the rich tapestry of delicious confusion that had been sewn in.  

That being said, DeadClub is a fantastically entertaining show that is superbly performed. It is a perfect example of all aspects of a show working together in harmony. The staging is integral to the performance: the on-stage performers (because it turns out there is a veritable wealth of hidden offstage performers) emerge and disappear through random gaps and spaces – some of which look much too small for any person to fit through, but they manage to do the nigh on impossible. There is a large focus on light and dark, with the audience plunged into unsuspecting darkness numerous times throughout the performance and a plethora of spotlight usage, interspersed with blinding floodlights as the show builds to a finish. There are a few short scenes focused on wooden figurines where the small inanimate objects are granted buckets of personality by simple voiceover and clever scripting.

The one thing that was clear to me by the end of the show is that not everyone can gain entrance to the DeadClub…but everyone should definitely give it a good go.

Requardt & Rosenberg’s DeadClub is playing The Place until September 30.

Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Tricia Wey

Tricia Wey

Tricia is an awkward being who is often more hair than actual person. She loves theatre, especially immersive, and all creative pursuits. Her accent will confuse you and she often mixes her Americanisms with her UK turns of phrase. Follow her on instagram: @tricia.wey and her blog for further (sometimes less socially upstanding) thoughts and ramblings...when she is proactive enough to turn said thoughts and ramblings into actual words: https://triciasway.wordpress.com/